Sunday, December 30, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

"For auld lang syne, my dear, 
for auld lang syne, 
we'll take a cup of kindness yet, 
for auld lang syne."

January 1, 2008
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the above words in 1788. "Auld lang syne" means, loosely, "long, long ago" or "days gone by." The phrase is even older, appearing in poems hundreds of years before Burns' edition. Two centuries and two decades after he wrote this poem, I heard the song in downtown Dallas, welcoming in the new year.

They called the celebration the "Big D NYE." Cross Canadian Ragweed played for the crowd gathered in a plaza area. No offense to them, but I remember thinking, for a city as big as Dallas, the second most famous "CCR" band may not be quite big-time enough. But they gave a good showing, this was the biggest city I had been in at the time (not counting a 45-minute stint at the Chicago airport), and the glorious 2007 football season had culminated with a Cotton Bowl bid. The just-completed 2007 had been a great one, and 2008 had plenty in store as well.

The Big D put on a show, I drank a bottle of sparkling grape juice (which became a New Year's tradition of mine somewhere along the way), and the Tigers rolled Arkansas the next day. That spring semester we lived in the "Bunker," ate from a giant bag of Fruity Dyno Bites, and had very little in the fridge to offer a woman on the rare occasion one stopped by.

I went to Bay St. Louis over Spring Break to build houses/brave tall scaffolding, and we got to visit New Orleans. Nothing says mission trip like a walk down Bourbon Street.

I resolved to always be gutsy enough to go for it with girls, to never let fear of failure or rejection overwhelm my will to try. ("Not the victory but the action...") I made cookies for a picnic date in Stephens Park, under- or overcooking dozens in an effort to get six or seven that were acceptable. My roommates made the mistakes go away. Bill Self said, "Go out there and relax," and to our horror, it worked very well as Kansas jumped way ahead of North Carolina and then won the national title against Memphis (Calipari!). My sister's high school team won one more district title, and months later she graduated valedictorian.

Back at school in August, we played Wiffle ball on the South Quad, and a ridiculously hot sorority girl happened by and actually accepted our invitation to play with us.

I looked at the Mizzou football schedule and said, "I want them all." I didn't get them all, but did attend all but two of the games in person. I shot an eight-point buck on opening morning of deer season, then drove up with my brother, Brent Foster and his redheaded friend, Danielle, to watch Mizzou beat Iowa State in the frozen north of Ames. Iowa State fans chanted "Wind! Chill!" on alternating sides of the stadium. My friend Seth Maberry and I went to the Stoney Creek Inn on election night, consoling Foster after his GOP's defeat. Nathan Armer won the Fudd Five challenge. His picture still hangs in the entryway of Fuddruckers. This feat kicked off a weekend during which my friends and I took in a Blues hockey game in St. Louis (loss), a Mizzou football game in Kansas City (loss - Stoooops!) and a Mizzou basketball game in Columbia (win!).

January 1, 2009
I spent New Year's Eve with my family. I have many years of fond memories of ringing in the New Year with my family, usually at my grandparents' house. Year after year, we tossed the confetti we made as kids into the air as the sounds of Dick Clark and "Auld Lang Syne" poured out from the TV, one of those console, set-in-wood types common to grandparents' homes.

We waited for hours before my senior year MU-KU game to get good seats, and Tony Romo's future wife walked through the waiting students, interviewing them for KOMU. Zaire Taylor's shot bounced off the rim and in to beat Kansas, and we rushed the court. Missouri rolled Baylor, and I was on the front of the Columbia Tribune Sports section with Leo Lyons, arm raised and yelling in my black Mizzou shirt. I went on a road trip for the ages with Armer and Yount to watch Missouri's NCAA Tournament run to the Elite 8. It was unforgettable (tumbleweeds, Kristin the Buster's waitress, the blue turf, snow and friendly Mormons in Utah, Four Corners, the magnificent palate of colors at the Grand Canyon around sunset, basketball in a football stadium, Denmon's buzzer-beater from the other free-throw line, meeting the great Dick Enberg, the dream dying hard a handful of points from that first Final Four).

On my first trip to Desloge, I met a friend of Nathan Yount's, Caleb Barron, wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey. It didn't seem like a watershed moment, but now I check NBA scores and standings each night before bed to see how his employer, the Suns, are faring.

My Advanced Writing professor Berkley Hudson told us to "Imagine wild success -- specifically." I graduated college and learned the uncertainty of finishing high school is nothing compared to the great unknown after college's finish line. What a finish line it was, honors ceremony on the postcard-perfect quad, grand J-school ceremony Saturday night, reception at the BSU after. Zack Greinke dazzled time after time I watched him pitch, including after a long rain delay, on a buck night at Kauffman the day before graduation, when my friends and I ate 23 hot dogs in honor of his number. Many were free, tossed into the thinned crowd after the long delay by vendors walking by.

I was still using active verbs on Facebook (Ben Herrold: does not like Mizzou's uniforms for the Kansas [football] game...). I got a full-time job and a tiny rental house in Monroe City.

January 1, 2010
I rung in the New Year with my friends at the venerable Green Valley House, up on the hill at the end of Green Valley Drive, with a mixture of ping-pong, tiny hoop H-O-R-S-E and my bottle of sparkling grape juice. I got a job with the Monitor-Index and moved back to Columbia after a cold month in Monroe City.

Matt and Mikki Hayes got married, and a friend (I'll spare his name) and I unwittingly danced with girls who were not quite 18 at the reception. But they easily looked 18. I got a new car, the HHR, and retired the old Monte Carlo, veteran of so many road trips. Nathan and Brittney Yount got engaged, and he, Armer, Mabes and myself had a splendid drive down to Little Rock that summer so he could ask her father for her hand. We sang along to summery country songs like Jerrod Niemann's "Lover, Lover" probably seven times each. It was searingly, wrathfully hot.

I got a Twitter account, and have sent out roughly 5,400 tweets since then. I wrote a Mizzou column that referenced Elmer Fudd striking down Bugs Bunny in "That's Opera, Doc" (SMOG!!!) before Missouri's Homecoming clash with Oklahoma, then the Tigers pulled out the epic win. Gahn McGaffie shook Faurot, Columbia and the college football nation with his opening kickoff return for a touchdown. Jimmer-mania swept the country during college basketball season.

God used the ancient words of Isaiah 41 to comfort and lift me when I was down late in the year. Repeat this phrase for each of these years: God was with me and loved me.

January 1, 2011
I spent my first New Year's Eve in St. Louis, at the Hayeses' apartment. We played games and enjoyed the typical spread of New Year's Eve food and snacks. The next day, I let a Wii controller fly out of my hand on a vicious hack during a baseball game. The projectile/controller knocked one of their Dachshund decorations off the mantle, but they were able to fix it up nearly good as new.

A massive snowstorm dumped over 20 inches of snow on Columbia, and the Younts and I played copious amounts of Mario Cart while snowed in. It was crazy to see Providence devoid of traffic during the blizzard. The world met Kate Upton. Mike Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas and reportedly danced in and out of lanes of traffic to avoid KOMU's Eric Blumberg, the latest chapter in the surreal and wonderful and compelling story of Missouri basketball. Mizzou hired Frank Haith.

I took a sublime trip to New York City to visit a friend and fulfilled my dream of seeing the great Mariano Rivera enter a game and to save it for the Yankees. I also saw young Eric Hosmer, in the big leagues less than a week, face Rivera. From Manhattan's dramatic appearance out my airplane window to standing atop the Empire State Building to bits of wisdom from my friend, the trip was a great blessing.

The Younts got married, the culmination of a long, wild, fun weekend, and I quelled my nerves enough to deliver the best-man speech.

I decided to take up running, saw a "Half-marathon in 10 weeks" running magazine cover, and went for it. On a lovely September day, I ran 13.1 miles around good old Columbia, joined for a few steps by my friend Chase Ruble, who was working a tour team shift on campus. Afterward I watched roughly 13.1 hours of college football, culminating with a thrilling Michigan-Notre Dame game in the Big House's first night game. I watched the Chiefs win against the Chargers at Jacob Pollard's place on a Halloween, when Arrowhead thundered again and Philip Rivers fumbled a snap late in the game and could be seen saying, "Worst... day... ever" on the sideline.

I wrote about redistricting, a World War II veteran's experience as POW in Germany and a survivor of child sexual abuse for the Monitor-Index.

Missouri announced its move to the SEC, and my nostalgic self mourned the death of Big 8/12 tradition, even as I understood the reasons given for the move. Pinkel drank jumbo glasses of wine.

January 1, 2012
I again rung in the New Year in St. Louis, but this time in the Hayeses' house. A sign of us growing up, perhaps, going from their apartment to their home. We played games and ate much and took one of my favorite photos ever, a group shot. Fireworks went off all around at midnight. A few of us sat on the back porch, talked about the year that was and what we wanted for the year to come. New years are fascinating to me, especially so during the thrilling, shifting years after college ends.

I like the phrase and use it sometimes in jest, but Missouri's last scheduled home game with Kansas, last  game at Mizzou Arena with both in the same conference, was truly One For The Ages. Surprise fireworks (yes, indoor fireworks) were a pregame jolt, as was the mass stampede of students outside the doors. The crowd roared all night, the kind of special roar that's only heard at Mizzou Arena when playing Kansas. The Jayhawks seemed to have ground out a win late, shades of sickening losses in Columbia in years past (Tyrel Reed's shot/barking at Mizzou student section, Julian Wright's alley-oops dunks, David Padgett, Langford/Hinrich...). But no. With Missouri down eight, Marcus Denmon, of Kansas City, MISSOURI, scored nine points as the Tigers won by three. Afterward, the band played the fight songs and the crowd cheered and the students held their hands in the air for that "...hands go UP... and they stay there..." song. Nobody wanted to leave.

The return game was a classic on Naismith Drive, in old Allen Fieldhouse. I watched it in Armer's basement with him, Mabes and Barron. Chris Coffman showed up for the second half. His car caught on fire en route. Missouri ran out to a huge lead. Now it was Kansas fans' turn to be sick. But slowly, the Jayhawks reeled the Tigers in. Denmon's shot while falling into the bench rattled in the opening of the rim and came out, and the rally continued. With victory toasts nearby, Kansas won in overtime.

I got a great new job with Missouri Farmer Today. I met Cedar Rapids for the interview/training/ annual meeting. Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament. A decent shot for the Tigers to make the Final Four slipped away gradually, then suddenly (Hi, Hemingway) in their first NCAA Tournament game. The Royals and #OurTime were a bitter disappointment. My brother got married, and I mentioned the DiMaggio brothers in my best-man toast. The Younts returned to Columbia. Armer and the Younts bought houses. I was introduced to bocce ball, and later that night I got Foster to laugh hysterically after (and a little during) the Hunger Games.

I became smitten with Lolo Jones before the Olympics and watched her races streaming live. She was crushed by her fourth-place finish, the toughest possible Olympic finish, so I tweeted her reasons for her to smile, one a day for 30 days. She tweeted back once, at 12:34 p.m., a time that a former J-school classmate once told me was a time for making wishes.

Our slowpitch softball team, the Roadrunners, had a remarkable season in Jefferson City capped by a league title. We raucously celebrated a walkoff win in one of our games, and played in fierce heat most of our games. I golfed at quirky old Railwood with Foster in the oppressive heat.

Mabes went back to school. Missouri and the SEC got acquainted. If Helen of Troy was the face (or maybe some of her other features) that sailed a thousand ships, Sheldon Richardson had the quip that launched a thousand "old man football" jokes the rest of the season. The Tigers lost to Vanderbilt and Syracuse at home and missed a bowl. I wrote a long blog post with a lot of parentheses (this one!).

I saw some great movies at the end of the year, Lincoln and the Silver Linings Playbook. In the latter, at a gripping moment, Robert De Niro's character delivers this gem of a line: "When life reaches out with a moment like this, it's a sin if you don't reach back."

Life's been reaching out to me through these years. I keep trying like crazy to reach back, trying to live God's way, trying to live "all the way up," to act in spite of fear, to be ambitious, to go for it and have fun and love life.

For auld lang syne, my friends.

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